In September, WFIS appointed Chelle Downey-Magee to serve on the Early Learning Advisory Council.  Chelle comes to the council with more than 25 years experience in early learning as a teacher, director and credentialed administrator from the American Montessori Society. Chelle attended her first ELAC meeting in early October as the representative for the private school community. Three major topics were discussed by the council at this meeting.

The Blue Ribbon Commission on Children and Families is an executive order from the governor that would establish a new cabinet-level department focused solely on children and families. Several other states have moved to this model. The Commission will not replace the Department of Early Learning. This new Commission will align State policies across agencies and hold them accountable for the use of  resources to improve the lives of children and families.  “Among the priorities for the new department must be supporting and strengthening families before crises occur, and leveraging every contact as an opportunity to improve the course of a child’s life and help to minimize further system-involvement or harmaccording to the Governor’s Office

Also discussed at length was the Intersection of Child Safety and Civil Rights.  Prosecution for crimes that disqualify people from working with children seem to many as racially biased—for instance a person of color that shoplifts at Target would most likely be arrested and get a record, while a person not of color would be released to parents with a stern talking to. The Director’s List has a) crimes that permanently disqualify a subject individual and b) crimes that disqualify a subject individual for five years from the date of conviction. So, for Family Child Care and Family, Friends and Neighbor situations—if someone who lives there has been convicted, that person does not get to provide childcare that can be paid for by DSHS. This either drives the childcare underground, or creates the unfortunate situation where care isn’t available in the child’s home language or culture. The big questions revolve around changing the lists so that some of the offenses are less offensive and don’t disqualify otherwise qualified providers, thus providing both jobs and childcare. Please take a look at the current WAC link.

King County Best Start for Kids A levy to fund this childcare program was passed in November 2015. It’s based on a proactive factor framework. The desired outcomes are: babies born healthy, the journey to adulthood is healthy, and safe and healthy communities are supported. The Children and Youth Advisory Board (CYAB) advised on the Prenatal – 5 Years, and 5 – 24 Years strategies of the implementation plan, an area WFIS will continue to monitor.  Moving forward, the CYAB’s work will include partnering with King County to ensure children and youth investments via Best Starts for Kids effectively track with the requirements of the levy, while ensuring fund expenditures are transparent to the public.  In addition, multiple groups’ perspectives provided critical insight to drive the BSK implementation: the Communities of Opportunity (COO) governance group, Juvenile Justice Equity Steering Committee (JJESC), a Data Team generating baseline data to inform the BSK Levy, the BSK Science and Research panel ensuring approaches aligned with research and scientific evidence, and multiple rounds of community conversations which took place through the spring of 2016. The private schools were involved in the community conversations. Public involvement and engagement are central parts of Best Starts for Kids. Read the full BSK Plan pdf or stay current with the program’s progress on the BSK Blog.